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Chapter Twenty-six

THE story oŁ Su Tungpo at Huichow is popularly associated with
his romance with Chaoyun. After the poet's death, his residence
on White Stork Hill was preserved as Chaoyun Memorial. Wang
Chaoyun was the girl of Hangchow whose infant son's death had
saddened the journey back from his first exile, who had been living
with him since and now had followed him to exile again. Chin Kuan's
poem to her said that her beauty was like that of a garden in spring
and her eyes were like the light of the dawn. She was yet young, being
only thirty-one when she arrived at Huichow. Su himself was then fifty-
seven, but their great disparity of age did not seem to make any differ-
ence. She was intelligent, gay, vivacious, spirited. Of all the women in
Su's life, she seemed to understand him best. She adored the poet and
tried to grow to her husband's spiritual level. Su Tungpo not only
recorded his gratitude to the woman who shared his exile in his old
age, but he honoured her with poems that elevated their passion into a
high companionship in the quest for immortal life.

Su Tungpo always referred to Chaoyun as the celestial maiden of
Vimalatyrti ("Name Undefiled"), a classic bearing the name of an
early Buddhist. In the classic, there was a story that when Buddha was
living at a certain town in the form of a forest sage, he had a discus-
sion one day with his disciples. From up in the sky appeared a celestial
maiden who dropped flower petals down on the company below. Thd
petals that fell on the boddhisattvas all slipped off to the ground, except
those that fell on one person. The petals clung to his dress and could
not be brushed off no matter how hard the others tried. "Why do you
try to brush off the petals from this person ?" asked the celestial maiden,
and some of them said: "These petals are not in accordance with
dharma, the law of the Buddha. That's why they cling to his dress."
"No," said the celestial spirit, "these petals are not at fault, but rather
the person to whom they cling. If believers who join the church still
retain the sense of discrimination between individual beings, they act or
think contrary to the dharma. If they abolish all the discriminations,
then they live in accordance with the dharma. These boddhisattvas to
whom the flower petals cannot cling have already achieved the aboli-
tion of all sense discriminations. It is like fear; fear does not invade a
man's heart unless he is already afraid. If the disciples love this life
and are afraid of death, then the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste,
and touch have a chance to deceive them. One who has conquered feai
stands above all the senses."